Microsoft software on Linux
All the “Microsoft loves Linux” talk can be a tad misleading. Microsoft definitely won’t be releasing a Linux desktop version of Microsoft Office any time soon, or porting the next Halo game to Linux and SteamOS. Microsoft’s love for Linux is all about developers. Developers can now use PowerShell on Linux, and run PowerShell scripts on Linux servers. Microsoft even provides its own Linux servers through the Azure cloud computing service.
But that exclusivity doesn’t make benefit to developers any less welcome. PowerShell was made possible because Microsoft open-sourced .NET Core back in 2014. Again, Microsoft just open-sourced the core—not any components that could make it easier to run graphical .NET apps on Linux, like WinForms.
Visual Studio has already arrived on Linux and Mac—sort of—with the Visual Studio Code editor, a graphical code editor Microsoft released as an open-source project for other platforms. Microsoft is also working on a new version of Skype for Linux, a notable exception to the developer focus. It’s also worth noting that Microsoft Office does run on Linux, somewhat, through the Office Online web applications in a browser. People aren’t entirely cut off from Microsoft’s software on a Linux desktop, as they would have been in the past.
Linux software on Windows
This isn’t just limited to Linux users, either. Windows 10’s Anniversary Update brought an entire Windows Subsystem for Linux layer that enables a full, Ubuntu-based Bash shell on Windows. Windows users can run Linux applications directly on Windows. This is available to everyone, even Windows 10 Home users—it could easily have been a more expensive Windows 10 Professional feature.
Microsoft is also working on other long-asked-for features, like building an SSH client into PowerShell so system administrators can easily connect to remote Linux servers without installing an additional tool like PuTTY. PowerShell’s developers previously tried to do this, but were shot down by managers at the time.
All of Microsoft’s work doesn’t indicate the collapse of the closed-source software model or the year of the Linux desktop, but it does show Microsoft’s attempts to make things easier for developers. Linux developers can now run much of the same software on a Windows desktop, and Windows developers can use PowerShell to script Linux servers. But don’t expect an open-source Windows any time soon.